England masters athlete Claire Martin tells Matt Long about how she modifies sessions to optimise her training.

Thus far in our series of articles on masters running, we’ve covered some great subjects. First world masters silver medallist Chris Hollinshead has helped us explore long term athlete planning. Secondly, British 800m record holder David Oxland told us how he approaches his seasonal planning in terms of his mircroycle of training. Thirdly, Northern Ireland international Debbie Matchett has spoken about day to day planning in terms of modifying the microcycle of training.

In this fourth piece we consider West et al.’s (2021) notion of ‘in session adjustments’ through the eyes of eight times winner of the British and Irish masters international cross country, Claire Martin.

Training age

Unlike the aforementioned David Oxland and Debbie Matchett, Claire has a considerable training age as reflected by on of her earliest running highlights which she cites as winning the English schools milk cup final cross country as an Under 13 athlete.

The record 14 time winner of the Shropshire senior cross country championships stresses that, “At the age of 47 you’ve really got to listen to your body more so changes to less intensity workouts, generally based much more around tempo and fartlek”.

This is significant because Claire is indicating that continuous modes of session may be the key to staying close to speed whilst minimising the risk of injury.

Speed endurance work

The above does not mean that the woman who secured a GB vest for steeplechase at a Glasgow international against Rusiia and the USA, no longer undertakes repetition training to facilitate speed endurance but rather that she uses this mode of discontinuous repetition based session far more sparingly than when she was a senior.

She enlightens us that, “Tuesday club nights are predominantly track sessions, within a great group I train with. So this is the one time a week I’m probably running quicker than race pace. Whereas when I was a younger athlete my body could cope with this type of session 3 times per week, I’m now finding once a week is more than enough without my body breaking down”.

Chaining the training

The three time winner of the Chase Corporate Challenge Final in New York continues that, “Saturday sessions are more of a tempo workout run to HR as I find my body can recover and cope with this much better and means I’m not training too hard.

This adaptation means allows me to do the long Sunday run without my body feeling battered from the previous day. As consistency is key to improving it’s all about making sure you’re body is ready for the next session”.

Mechanical loading

It is not only the mode of session bit the mode of surface which the Midlands Womens’ Team Manager alludes to as being paramount given her masters status.

“When I get the chance I adapt my sessions to the grass as it’s where I feel my most comfortable. It not only takes away the pressure of having to hit specific times for specific distances but it’s also less stress on your feet and lower legs and can strengthen the ankles at the same time”.

So this may mean the masters athlete has to adopt the kind of ‘run to feel’ rather than run to split kind of philosophy advocated by the likes of the late, great Arthur Lydiard. This kind of approach has been advocated by Lorraine Moller, who took a magnificent bronze medal in the marathon at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics at the age of 37 (see Long, 2020).

The above leaves us with the following questions for self-reflection:

1. In what ways does my training age give me an indication of the type of running I can do as a masters athlete?

2. Which modes of session allow me to develop my energy systems appropriately whilst minimising the risk of injury?

3. How frequently am I able to effect speed endurance sessions at the appropriate point of the periodisation cycle?

4. When am I making the best use of surfaces to run on which will allow me to get an adaptation from training but also help in terms of my recovery for the next session?

Matt Long has served as an England Team Manager and Coach and welcomes contact for coaching support at mattlongcoach@gmail.com


Long, M. (2020) Lorraine Moller on the value of kinaesthetic learning for runners’. Athletics Weekly. May 10th.

West , S. et al. (2021) ‘More than a Metric: How Training Load is Used in Elite Sport for Athlete Management’. Int J Sports Med 2021; 42(04): 300-306